Section 2. Response to Increase in Traffic Accidents

Item 5. Research and Development of a Comprehensive Automobile Traffic Control System

In January 1973, as part of the Big Technology Development Project run by the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), a plan to research and develop comprehensive automobile traffic control technologies was announced. The sought-after technologies formed a major project that aimed at easing traffic congestion in large cities through the application of a full-scale traffic control system that combined several functions. The system would come to feature transmitters fitted to individual vehicles, allowing one-way and two-way communication with the infrastructure for guiding each vehicle along an optimum route.

This was a vehicle-based attempt to relieve urban traffic problems, and Toyota applied to participate based on the belief that development of this system was part of the company's social responsibility, and also because the project was a chance to utilize and enhance the Toyota Group's technology, particularly in the fields of car electronics and computer systems.

From February to March 1973, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd., Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd, Nippondenso and Toyota Central R&D Labs, Inc. created a development proposal and submitted it to the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology. This proposal was subsequently selected from among the numerous applications, and it was determined that joint development would be conducted between national research institutes (the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory and the National Research Institute of Police Science), universities, and private companies.

During this research and development, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., Nippon Electric Co., Ltd. (now NEC Corporation) and Toyota were responsible for the design of the pilot system, while development of related devices was handled mainly by Nippondenso. A small-scale test was conducted in 1975, followed by pilot trials in Tokyo's Meguro-ku and Shibuya-ku from October 1977.

Under the system, a computer in the central control room collected road traffic data, which was transmitted to individual cars equipped with receivers. By following instructions issued by the system, vehicles were able to avoid congested routes and travel smoothly using less crowded roads.

The trial found that the system was able to ease congestion on the roads studied, and that the benefits to society from such a system would exceed the investment required.1 The system provided the momentum for the subsequent development of mobile communication technology such as car phones.

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